Hot Saturday for Florent Geroux, Paco Lopez and Jorge Velez

March 22, 2020

Florent Geroux had a hot hand Saturday at the Fair Grounds He took the Fair Grounds Oaks on Bonny South for Brad Cox. Bonny South was far back early and made a strong rally down the middle of the stretch to win going away. Geroux came right back and made it a double for Cox when he went wire to wire to win the Louisiana Derby on Wells Bayou.

Over at Gulfstream Paco Lopez stole the show.

Cara Oliver’s Hear My Prayer sprinted to the lead and kept on going, shaking off Foolish Humor early and turning away Compensate late to earn her first career stakes victory in the $75,000 Melody of Colors by 1 ½ lengths, giving jockey Paco Lopez his fifth of a record-equaling victories on Saturday’s 12-race program at Gulfstream Park.

Lopez, a past Championship Meet riding champion who sits third in the current standings, previously won aboard Strike Magic ($21) in Race 1, Time to Two Step ($2.40) in Race 2, French Quarter ($3.60) in Race 5 and Quick Step Ed ($8.80) in Race 6, adding a sixth win aboard We Miss Susie ($6) in Race 10 and a seventh aboard National Honor ($11.80) in Race 12.

With his seventh win Lopez joined the company of Luis Saez (twice), Tyler Gaffalione and Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey. Saez achieved the feat Jan. 24, 2018 and March 29, 2018. Gaffalione won seven on July 4, 2017, while Bailey set the record on March 11, 1996.

Trained by David Fisher, Hear My Prayer ($4) was a popular winner at even money in the field of 11 3-year-old fillies, cutting back to five furlongs following her 2020 debut, in which she was sixth after setting the pace in the 7 ½-furlong Ginger Brew Jan. 4 at Gulfstream.

The winning time was 55.89 seconds over a firm turf course.

Hear My Prayer was intent on the lead from Post 4 and dueled through an opening quarter-mile in 21.23 seconds with Foolish Humor at her right hip. Foolish Humor began to fade around the turn and Compensate picked up the chase down the center of the track after a half in 43.80, but was unable to reel in the winner. Compensate was second, with Foolish Humor third, Mrs. Maisel fourth and 70-1 long shot Free the Beast fifth.

Hear My Prayer improved to 3-0 sprinting five furlongs on the grass, her other wins coming last fall at both Gulfstream Park and Gulfstream Park West, each in front-running fashion. She was unable to sustain her lead in the Ginger Brew and wound up beaten 3 ¼ lengths.

Two races later, Smart Angle LLP’s Cajun Casanova rallied from far back to win the $75,000 Texas Glitter, a five-furlong turf sprint for 3-year-olds.

Trained by Michael Pino, Cajun Casanova, who captured the five-furlong Hollywood Beach on turf last year at Gulfstream, was claimed for $50,000 out of an eight-length victory in a five-furlong off-the-turf optional claiming allowance Jan. 23. The son of Cajun Breeze set the pace before finishing second in a five-furlong optional claiming allowance on turf for his new connections Feb. 17.

Saturday, Cajun Casanova ($9.40) and jockey Miguel Vasquez employed different tactics with success. Cajun Casanova chased the pace in fourth as R Man Joe set solid fractions of 21.47 and 43.36 seconds for the first half-mile before swinging wide entering the stretch and kicking in to win by neck.

R Man Joe finished second under Emisael Jaramillo, 1 ½ lengths ahead of late-charging Guildsman and jockey Luis Saez.

Cajun Casanova ran five furlongs in 55.28 seconds.

Over on the west coast at Santa Anita Jorge Velez, riding as a journeyman for the first time, rode a three bagger. Velez made the tough transition from apprentice rider to journeyman look easy. He won with his second journeyman mount on Avalon Ride for Craig Lewis. Velez showed patience and made a well times move to get up nearing the wire. He came right back in the next race to win on Outright for Ryan Hanson. The new journeyman wasn’t finished as he took the 8th race on the card to cap the triple aboard Taco Waco for Victor Garcia. Velez’s book is handled by Nelson Arroyo who also handles Heriberto Figueroa with his son at Turfway Park. Figueroa won at Turfway on Lucky At Justice so it was a four bagger for Arroyo as an agent. Erick Arroyo is bringing in a seven pound apprentice from Puerto Rico, Alexi Centeno to ride at Santa Anita this spring, and considering some of the young riders the Arroyo’s have imported in the past should be one to watch.

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